There is a very beautiful concept in Judaism called כַּוָּנָה “kavanah” which would translate as “the intention” and is actually a movement, the movement of your heart that you can feel when you really mean something – when you really mean it.
It can definitely be experienced physically. It may depend on how you are attuned to your own body and if you pay attention to very subtle sensations when trying to connect your words and your mind, your spirit and your body at the same time and in the same movement. It is a matter of awareness. It is also a matter of practice: setting an intention may take some preparation, like a ritualistic one.
If we intend to really delight our guests with a feast, we will set a beautiful table, take our fine china out, make sure we get the mess out of sight, clean our surroundings and be prepared on time.
If we intend to deliver a good speech to our public, we will make sure to prepare our text, maybe time our delivery and rehearse our movements.
When we take stock of our year before the high holy days, it should be as important as setting a beautiful table and getting our thoughts all in good order. This is when I think of kavanah as residing inside my heart because I can sense a bit of heaviness settling in advance which is different from simple “stage fright”, or this instinct to flee from something that would be scary. The questions that come to my mind are all about my honesty, my sincerity: do I really mean what my words say? Sometimes, because I talk too much, I feel like the words are just cover-ups, that there should not be that many words to express the real intention. That is when my heart wants to jump forward and just show what it is capable of doing by just loving, opening up and praising the beauty of Creation.
This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).
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Inspiration comes and goes. The same goes with time. And all of a sudden, time is gone. People you loved are gone. You go by the calendar to remember things to do. And you don’t see yourself age. And then it is a birthday. An anniversary. Time to celebrate a gone by time.
Nature reminds me of being grateful. Nature does not go by the calendar. Nature goes by the rythm. By laws that I don’t control. I didn’t create the world. I was not there when it was created. Why should I want to control it so badly? Why would I forget that I have no right to complain and whine about its course? I should only be in awe. And grateful.
We are all in it now. I can do my part. You can do your part. I do not need to do your part if you do it. You do not need to worry if I do mine. We just need to know we are in together. Each working our part together. Listening to each other. Feeling each other’s pains and joys. Sharing the same world of wonder and excitement.
Together we create the beauty we don’t see in our own work. When in doubt, never give up. Each part can look dull and they only make sense together. Before you know it, beauty is there. Not because of you. But not without you either. You have to be part of it. And be grateful for it.
What is gratitude? It is a way of looking at things: if you don’t know what it is to be homeless, remember to be grateful to have a roof, to know where you will sleep, even if the home isn’t spotless and tidy. If you don’t know what it is to be bedridden, be grateful for being able to take a walk outside even if it is windy and people are grumpy on the road. And if you are too sick to go outside, remember that you can enjoy the beauty laying outside your windows, and notice the little details that make life tell you the seasons.
There is always a silver lining to every situation. When something goes wrong, let us think about what it is teaching us so that we can change it the next time it will surface. An obstacle is an opportunity, not a curse. We shouldn’t be always noticing what is broken, who got this wrong and what needs to be done or what is missing in our lives. Let us teach our children that there is a blessing in every situation even if it is hidden from our sight. They will play looking for it and be rewarded when they realize how a bad situation turned into a blessing.